Swipe Across Cultures: Tel Aviv unplugged with Aleeza Ben Shalom

7 min read
Noa Lara Meir, Citizen Café Hebrew teacher
Noa Lara Meir, Citizen Café Hebrew teacher

In our new Tel Aviv unplugged podcast which has just launched, we’re diving headfirst into unfiltered chats with some seriously intriguing individuals who bring their unique takes on the Israeli mindset. In this debut episode, our founder Tamar Pross sat down with Aleeza Ben Shalom, renowned as “The Jewish Matchmaker” from the popular Netflix series. Aleeza, a beloved Citizen Café student, shares her insights on cross-cultural relationships, contemporary matchmaking and “Israeliness.” We’re giving you a sneak peek into this chat, so get ready for some fascinating insights below!

Tamar: So Aleeza, let’s talk about your journey in matchmaking. Is it intuitive, a skill, or a calling? What drives your passion for this?

Aleeza: Matchmaking, for me is definitely intuitive  – it’s a drive and a passion that is never-ending and always fueling energy. People often think of matchmaking as simply bringing two people together, but the introducer is just one out of three roles. The second one is to be a mentor or a coach, who supports the couple through the entire process – during the dating phase, as they get engaged, and even into the first year. The matchmaker in this role supports the match through mentorship or coaching. The third role is called the closer and it includes helping them make a decision – whether it’s a “Yay! you’re my person, let’s get married” or “You’re not my person… we’re breaking up”.

Tamar: What are your thoughts about online dating, FOBO (fear of a better option), and the state that the world is in right now? 

Aleeza:  I’m a fan of online matchmaking and dating resources, apps and systems because they’re matchmakers too. I’m a fan of bringing people together! But exactly as you said, it breeds FOMO, where there’s always somebody that I might think is better. Because there’s so many options, people end up in analysis paralysis; A state in which they can’t make a decision.They’re so overwhelmed by all of their options that they need to take a vacation and or a break from it. Back in the days, there used to be the person in your little shtetl, your neighborhood, that’s who you married and there wasn’t any other options and you lived a satisfied life because you didn’t look around going to far-off lands. We were satisfied with who we are and what we had. So yes, dating apps are a challenge, but there’s a tremendous blessing to it. Thousands upon thousands of matches have been made because of AI, because of online dating platforms, because of swiping. So as much of a bad reputation as the world wants to give it, I know a lot of people who got married through apps. I think any platform can be used for the good or the other. 

״If you don’t understand that to a deep level, you might be insulted, you might be upset, you might be offended because of how they behave and what they do. You might be completely embarrassed. And if you just understood it, you would just say, that’s just the way it is.״

Tamar: Let’s dive deeper into a topic we love talking about in the podcast, which is the whole cross-cultural aspect. We spoke about how important communication is in relationships. There is a big challenge in people dating Israelis when they’re not Israeli, right? How do you see matchmaking when it comes into the cross-cultural world?

Aleeza:I think that people have to have a deep understanding of what they’re getting themselves into. A lot of people come in with this romantic notion, ״We fell in love…” and I say – “Great, you’re gonna fall out of love equally as fast and easily. So if you don’t know what all this means, you’re not gonna be able to maintain it.” We need to figure out what’s going on –  Who is this person that you’re with, how are they similar to you? Even more important – how are they different from you? How is their family different? How are their customs different? How does their culture influence the essence of who they are? Some people throw it off and think it doesn’t matter or it’s no big deal. But that’s not true, because certain things are going to come up – they’re going to handle money in a different way because this is how they dealt with it in their culture, in their family. They’re going to handle holidays differently, time off differently, personal relationships, who’s the leader of the family. And if you don’t understand that to a deep level, you might be insulted, upset, you might be offended because of how they behave and what they do. You might be completely embarrassed. And if you just understood it, you would just say, that’s just the way it is.

Tamar: I talk a lot about the concept of two camps. Israelis intuitively see the world in two camps, and the way to bridge and go into someone’s camp is the simple, real connection. And a lot of the frustrations that I hear from Israelis working with Americans, let’s say, if we’re talking about Americans, is that they sugarcoat stuff, and that they don’t have that directness, just as much as Americans are frustrated with the Israelis about how direct they are. So how does that work in matchmaking?

“When we go “Oh, that’s rude” we are judging. When we go “Oh, that’s Israeli”, we are understanding. And I think that that’s at the core of what it is. And that’s very important in relationships.”

Aleeza: Israelis are blunt, direct. For Americans, culturally, this is unaccepted and rude. How do you help them bridge that? Simply knowing it is not enough. There’s books out there. You can read that Israelis are loud and rude. How do you emotionally overcome it? So if somebody is sensitive,, gentle, always dances around things, does not like confrontation or directness, I would just say it is not a good match. Unless you have a strong desire to change the nature of who you are and it’s very hard to go against our nature, I would say – don’t date an Israeli.

I like how direct Israelis were because I never have to guess. In America often people don’t say anything and then they talk behind your back. Both things have their pluses and minuses. Israelis want to know every detail. I had to learn that it was okay for them to ask and it was equally okay for me to not answer. Instead of thinking “Oh, that’s rude” I just thought “Oh, that’s Israeli.” And I didn’t place a judgment on it. When we go “Oh, that’s rude” we are judging. When we go “Oh, that’s Israeli”, we are understanding. And I think that that’s at the core of what it is. And that’s very important in relationships, right? “Oh, my spouse said that to me. Oh, how obnoxious. How could they do that?” But that’s their personality. They didn’t mean it as an offense to you. This is how they behave in the world. How do I want to respond to this? And if I don’t like what they did or said, How do I want to help them to treat me differently and explain to them “Not like this, try like that. That works better for me.”

Tamar: So do you do special guidance on people when you matchmake someone to an Israeli?

Aleeza: I tell them a couple of things. Number one, If they’re in Israel or if they move out and they’re Israeli in another country, I always tell the non-Israeli, they may want to move back to Israel at some point in time. Family is very important, more so than other places in the world. Family is top of the top and no matter how far Israelis run, they are not really that far from Israel or from their family in Israel. So I say if you are 100% opposed to moving to Israel, you probably shouldn’t marry them because there will be a point in their life that they will most likely either want to go home or long to go there so much that it breaks them. So you have to be open to moving back. Number two, you got to be ok with the family. They’re going to be helping to raise your children and grandchildren and you have to be ok with the fact that this is what it is. You’re not going to change them. And you’re just going to learn how to interact with them. And then I talk about Hebrew and culture – you’re going to miss so much if you don’t know Hebrew and you’re only speaking English. Israelis cannot fully express themselves, even if they are bilingual, even if they are fluent in both languages. The essence of what they want to say is going to come out in Hebrew. And if you really want to know who they are, you have to learn Hebrew at least to a conversational level, so that when they express themselves, you can really hear their heart.

Intrigued to learn more? Don’t miss out on the full interview – a goldmine of revelations. Join us by clicking below and tuning in to the complete episode.

  🎧 Listen here 🎧 

Thanks a million for being a part of our podcast’s beginning. Stay engaged, stay inspired, and stay tuned for more unfiltered conversations!

 

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